As the popularity of athletics in Botswana continues to soar, the upcoming IAAF World Championships billed for August 4 in London could break the ceiling as Botswana looks set to field a strong team with pedigree. The probability curve shapes well in favour of local athletes come August.
Botswana has not won a medal at the championships since the 2011 edition in Daegu, South Korea. But with the current team, chances are that the barren years may be brought to a screeching halt – with the possibility of winning a medal almost approaching actuality.
The country has relied on the heroics of the experienced Isaac Makwala and Amantle Montsho for some time, but the emerging sensations in Baboloki Thebe, Karabo Sibanda; and of course the resurgence of a rejuvenated Nijel Amos; as well as the enterprise of Onkabetse Nkobolo is demonstration that athletics Botswana has upped the tempo.
Botswana has fielded the cream of the lot for years especially in the 400m and 4x400m relay, and if recent records are anything to go by, it looks likely that global medals loom large on the horizon especially for the men’s senior relay team (4x400m), 400m and 800m categories.
The 4X400m Men’s Relay
The men’s 4x400m team is optimistic about this year’s prospects, following a strong global appearance and clocking 3:02.28, a Season’s Best (SB) in April’s IAAF World Relays in Bahamas. Even though a 2nd place finish was somewhat heart breaking for Batswana who yearned for pole finish in Nassau, it was an encouraging achievement because Botswana finally toppled the USA and its highly experienced former World Champion Lashawn Merritt, as well as Grenada’s Kirani James and possibly 400m whiz kid Wayde Van Neikerk in London. The athletes proved to have given it their best shot, finishing in podium position for the first time in Bahamas.
With Nkobolo and Makwala rearing to go, this gives team Botswana significant depth. One ambition for the aging Makwala is to decorate his glittering career with a global World medal and so are the red-hot young talents’ bids to consolidate their trade among top athletes at a global stage.
According to an experienced athletics coach, Oabona Theetso, Botswana’s 4x400m, men’s relay team, Thebe (400m) and Amos (800m) both stand a chance of going up on the ranks by winning a medal at the World championships.
In an interview he said there has never been a better time where medals look set like this year. “The relay team will definitely notch a medal, given their season’s best at Bahamas and the individual performance of 400m – we should really be hopeful for a medal,” he explained.
Thebe: The 400m race marvel
In the 400m race, all factors remaining constant, Thebe is the only front-runner who is ready to mount serious pressure on both Merritt and Van Neikerk. The fast developing athlete is best paced to bring back a second medal (any) from the global spectacle.
In his last diamond league race, the 20 year old who is occupying the second spot in the Diamond League standings with 7 points clocked 44:02 in Lausanne. The times are impressive though the sprinting world record holder, Neikerk definitely looks poised for gold. He did an astonishing 43:62 in his latest race with Thebe and Makwala coming behind him. Another challenge for Thebe would be the US sprinter, Merritt who outran him in May at the Eugene meet. Merritt clocked 44:79 while thebe showed up a few seconds later with 44:95.
According to Theetso, Van Niekerk is the biggest threat for the local boys at the IAAF meet. “Our boys will have to break a sweat if they are to beat him, it shows that he (Van Niekerk) has been working on sprints considering the time he clocked in his 400m race,” said the coach. Makwala could be the dark horse in the race having clocked 44:08 last week in Lausanne.
Nonetheless Merritt has proven not be much of a threat as age is catching up with him. The last time the 31 year old was on track was in May and his mentors are perhaps sparing him the fatigue of competing in various races. “The only threat is Wayne (Neikerk),” Theetso reiterated.
As for Sibanda, who is experiencing an amazing season start; there is fear that his hamstring injury might stand on his way of him winning any medal. The sprinter has yet to be examined by specialists to fully assess the injury. His last performance was two months back where he couldn’t finish the race owing to the injury. He, however might get to share in the glory if the relay team out performs other for podium finish.
800m: Nijel bounces back…
Olympics silver medallist, Amos has perhaps returned to his former glory, following a few upsets in some recent past competitions. “He is picking up at the right time, which is good for him and the nation,” Theetso highlighted. In Lausanne ‘Zorro’ clocked 800m world leading time (1:43) which certainly assures him of a medal. His rival David Rudisha is doing his preparations behind the scenes, but this shouldn’t disturb Amos, as his time speaks for him, the coach reckons.
For the female athletes, Montsho remains the only experienced runner of all. Since her fall from grace in 2015, a lot has changed in the 400m race. She clocked 49:56 in 2011 and the time hardly assures of any medal. Her preparations have been below par competing only in local meets clocking 52:02. Since then she has never been any active. However, prospect, Lydia Jele has proven to be the only candidate to surprise the world and probably bring a medal home.
Kaizer Chiefs, one of South Africa’s biggest football clubs, has been facing a coaching crisis. In the midst of this turmoil, Thatayaone Ditlhokwe, a local hard-tackling defender, has quickly become an integral member of the squad. However, despite his impressive performances, Ditlhokwe must avoid complacency and continue to work hard to secure his place in the star-studded team. TSHEPO KEHIMILE explores the potential impact of Chiefs’ frequent changes in coaching staff on Ditlhokwe and emphasize the need for him to maintain his high level of performance.
Ditlhokwe’s Rise to Prominence:
Ditlhokwe’s journey in the Premier Soccer League (PSL) began when he joined Supersport United on a three-year deal from Township Rollers. His talent and dedication quickly caught the attention of the technical team, and he became a trusted member of the squad. In January 2023, he signed a five-year contract with Kaizer Chiefs, one of the biggest clubs in South African football. His performances during pre-season matches against Young African and Township Rollers showcased his potential and promised a bright future at Amakhosi.
The Acid Test:
As the season progressed, Ditlhokwe faced several challenges. His first test came against Chippa United, where he and his defensive partner, Given Msimango, managed to keep a clean sheet in a goalless draw. However, miscommunication between the defense and goalkeeper Riyaard Pieterse led to a 2-1 defeat against Mamelodi Sundowns. Despite this setback, Ditlhokwe and Msimango redeemed themselves in subsequent matches, guiding Chiefs to a 3-0 victory against TS Galaxy and a 2-0 win against Stellenbosch.
The Impact of Coaching Changes:
Chiefs’ frequent changes in coaching staff can potentially affect Ditlhokwe’s performance and place in the team. The departure of Coach Molefi Ntseki, who had shown faith in Ditlhokwe, raised questions about whether the new coach would retain him as a regular starter. The arrival of Cavin Johnson as the interim coach saw Ditlhokwe maintain his place in the starting lineup, but the team continued to struggle defensively, conceding goals in matches against Golden Arrows and Cape Town City.
The Need for Consistency:
Ditlhokwe’s consistent presence in the starting lineup is commendable, but he must not become complacent. As competition for accolades and starting positions intensifies, he needs to work even harder to improve the team’s defensive record. Chiefs’ recent signing of his former Supersport United teammate adds further competition for the starting berth, making it crucial for Ditlhokwe to maintain his high level of performance.
Thatayaone Ditlhokwe’s journey at Kaizer Chiefs has been impressive, with his consistent performances earning him a regular place in the starting lineup. However, he must avoid complacency and continue to work hard to improve the team’s defensive record. The frequent changes in coaching staff at Chiefs add an element of uncertainty, making it essential for Ditlhokwe to prove himself to each new coach. By remaining focused and dedicated, Ditlhokwe can solidify his position in the team and contribute to the success of Amakhosi.
The Botswana Boxing Association (BOBA) recently organized a successful Boxing National Championships, sponsored by Maun Quarries and Tau Grading, with a generous amount of P100,000. This financial support is a welcome development for the boxing fraternity, as it has been almost a decade since such a windfall was received. The championships showcased the incredible skills of boxers like Mmusi Tswiigi, who achieved a remarkable victory by Referee Stop Contest (RSC). However, despite this success, BOBA acknowledges the need to improve and participate in international competitions to increase the chances of qualifying for the Paris Olympics.
National Championships Success:
The Boxing National Championships witnessed outstanding performances from various boxers. Mmusi Tswiigi’s victory by RSC highlighted his exceptional skills and determination. Other notable performers included Rajab Mahommed, Maxwell Sechi, Thabang Chakalisa, Kerapetse Segole, Joel Kgogobi, Botshelo Thomologo, Otsile Mogobye, Mompoloki Sebula, Kenaope Boifang, Solomon Motshwarakgole, Keamogetse Kenosi, and Tshephang Moilwa. These boxers demonstrated their talent and dedication, bringing pride to the nation.
The Road to the Olympics:
Despite the success at the National Championships, BOBA Secretary General, Taolo Tlouetsile, acknowledges that more needs to be done to secure a spot at the Paris Olympics. Tlouetsile emphasizes the importance of international exposure for local boxers to gauge their readiness for such competitions. He recognizes that the opponents in international competitions are more active and challenging, making it crucial for local boxers to participate in various international events.
The local pugilists faced difficulties during the Paris 2024 Boxing Africa Qualifiers held in Senegal. Most of the boxers were eliminated in the preliminary rounds, with only Keamogetse Kenosi making it to the quarterfinals. The lack of preparation due to financial constraints hindered their performance. The absence of training camps and exposure to international competitions affected their readiness and ability to compete at the highest level.
To secure a place at the Paris Olympics, local boxers must now focus on the upcoming qualification tournaments. The 1st World Qualification Tournament is scheduled to take place in Busto Arsizio, Italy, from 29 February to 12 March 2024, followed by the 2nd World Qualification Tournament in Bangkok, Thailand, from 23 May to 3 June 2024. These tournaments provide another opportunity for local boxers to showcase their skills and qualify for the Olympics.
The Way Forward:
BOBA National Team Coach, Thebe Setlalekgosi, acknowledges the talent of the boxers but highlights the financial constraints that have hindered their progress. Setlalekgosi emphasizes the need for proper training camps to prepare the team adequately. He expresses his disappointment at missing the International Boxing Association (IBA) Junior World Championships, which could have served as valuable preparation for future boxers. Setlalekgosi proposes a training camp from the first week of December until February to ensure the team is in top shape for the upcoming qualifiers.
The recent success of the Boxing National Championships sponsored by Maun Quarries and Tau Grading is a positive step for BOBA. However, the association recognizes the need for international exposure and participation to improve the chances of qualifying for the Paris Olympics. Financial constraints have been a significant challenge, affecting the preparation and performance of local boxers. With upcoming qualification tournaments, it is crucial for BOBA to prioritize training camps and international competitions to give their boxers the best chance at success. By addressing these challenges, BOBA can pave the way for a brighter future in boxing and bring glory to Botswana on the Olympic stage.
Crunch time has arrived for the Mares, the women’s senior national team of Botswana, as they face a crucial encounter against Kenya, also known as the Harambee Starlets.
This match will determine their qualification for the WAFCON 2024 tournament, and the fate of the Mares hangs in the balance. Under the guidance of their new coach, Alex Malete, the team carries a slight advantage with an away goal from the first leg.
Adding to their confidence, the Mares received a major boost with the inclusion of newly appointed Zebras head coach, Didier Gomes Da Rosa, in their technical team. Da Rosa’s appointment as the Director of Football for all national teams, including the women’s team, shows the commitment of the Botswana Football Association (BFA) to support the growth and development of women’s football in the country.
The history between these two teams is not extensive, with only two previous encounters. The last match took place in 2015 during the 2016 Olympic qualifiers. The Mares won the first leg 2-1 but lost the second leg 1-0, resulting in the Harambee Starlets advancing to the next round based on aggregate score.
Both teams have their sights set on making their second appearance in the WAFCON tournament. The Harambee Starlets made their debut in the 2016 edition held in Cameroon, and now they aim to secure their next appearance. Similarly, the Mares are eager to make their mark and showcase their progress since their last participation.
In the first leg of this crucial tie, the Mares faced early attacks from the home side but found their rhythm midway through the first half. Keitumetse Dithebe, an attacker from Gaborone United, broke the deadlock with a goal in the 37th minute. However, the Harambee Starlets quickly responded with a penalty kick just before halftime, leveling the score. The second half saw sustained attacks from the Kenyan side, but the Mares held firm at the back, ensuring the match ended in a stalemate.
The Mares can rely on the experience and skill of players like Refilwe Tholakele and Sedilame Bosija, who recently won the CAF Women’s Champions League with Mamelodi Sundowns. Tholakele, awarded the Golden Boot, played a pivotal role in her team’s historic triumph, scoring two goals in the final. Her success highlights the significance of her contribution to the Mares’ campaign.
As the Mares head into this crucial clash, they must draw on their collective strength and determination. The opportunity to qualify for WAFCON 2024 is within their grasp, and they must seize it. With the support of their coach, the inclusion of Da Rosa in the technical team, and the talent of their players, the Mares have the potential to rewrite their own history and make a lasting impact on women’s football in Botswana.